Should I Tell My Boss I'm Considering Another Job?
Beware: Some employers regard keeping your options open as a sign of disloyalty. Plus, what makes a great supervisor?
By Anne Fisher, FORTUNE senior writer

Dear Annie:
I'm in a bit of a quandary, and I hope you (and your readers) can help me out. Professional career advisors always say we should keep our options open, talk to headhunters when they call, and stay on the lookout for better opportunities. But what do employers think of this perpetual job hunt? I've been working with a recruiter who has lined up interviews for me at another company, for a job that would be a terrific step up for me. Here's the catch: The final round of interviews is at headquarters, which happens to be in a different country, so I will need a few days to get there and back. How do I explain this to my boss? Do I just call in sick so I can take the trip, or discuss the situation honestly with him?
-- No Name, Please

Dear No Name:
This is a tough one, because in some companies, you get cast into the outer darkness for even thinking about going elsewhere. Once you're perceived as "disloyal," you might find yourself passed over for important projects or promotions, or even fired. On the other hand, a candid discussion with your boss about your career goals, and why your current job isn't meeting them, may be a good thing. There may be in-house opportunities that your boss could offer you as an enticement to stick around which you may not hear about unless you make it clear that you're restless. If you have a solid relationship with your boss, and you know he values your work, try feeling him out on where he sees your career going, and how soon you might expect to move up to a bigger position. There's no need to come right out and say that you're interviewing someplace else. Until you have a firm offer in hand, that job is hypothetical anyway.

Whatever you do, don't lie about why you're taking a few days off. Use up any vacation or personal days you have coming. (Here's hoping you have some, or can arrange to work extra hours to make up the time.) Then try to minimize your absence by scheduling at least one of your flights on a weekend, if you can. Calling in sick is not only sneaky and unethical, it's too risky: Murphy's Law dictates that, as soon as you've done so, you'll run into a colleague at the airport.

Dear Annie:
After 3 years as a customer-service rep, I just got promoted to my first supervisor position. This is great, but I am nervous. My department and another department recently merged, so I am supervising almost twice as many people as the last person in this job did, and there are so many other changes going on that it's hard to keep up. My company doesn't offer training for new supervisors (only for new managers, which is one level above me), but I really want to succeed at this job. Any advice?
-- Rookie Boss

Dear Rookie:
It's natural to be nervous. This past summer, AchieveGlobal (http://www.achieveglobal.com), a Tampa-based training and consulting firm, surveyed about 500 newly-anointed supervisors and found that most are struggling with "increased demands with less support" from their employers and "constantly changing job duties," as well as "an uncommitted and increasingly cynical workforce." Gulp. But fear not. Sharon Daniels, AchieveGlobal's CEO, says the research uncovered three main traits that successful supervisors share. Daniels suggests you concentrate on building your skills in these areas:

Personal credibility. In today's less-hierarchical organizations, Daniels says, personal credibility becomes more important than your title or formal position. You can earn it by following through on promises, respecting others, giving subordinates credit for their work, and doing your best to get employees the resources they need to shine. Says Daniels, "The credible supervisor is able to catch some flak in the event of a mistake, and usually finds it easier to convince staffers of new ideas."

Employee commitment. Stellar supervisors, the AchieveGlobal study notes, "inspire creativity and dedication to meet goals." And how do you do that? By "identifying the value of the group's work, demonstrating how each employee fits into the big picture, and giving employees a clear direction." Your subordinates also need to know exactly how their performance will be measured.

Management support. Sit down with the manager you report to, if you haven't done it already, and find out what's most important to him or her. Then figure out how you can support those aims. If problems arise (as of course they will), come up with a possible solution or two before you talk to your boss about it. Keep him or her up to date on what's going on.

Two thoughts from yours truly: It might help to bear in mind that the people who decided to give you this job believe that you can handle it, and they're probably right. If you get into a bind, think about the best boss you ever worked for, and try to approach the situation as he or she would have. You'll do fine.

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.